The courtroom was abuzz, and the gallery crowded. But the people there weren’t eagerly awaiting a criminal trial. They were gathered for a much happier occasion – National Adoption Day.
On November 22, one after another, 12 families approached the judge to promise a lifetime commitment to the children in their care. The ceremony was quick, straightforward and to the point, but for the children who moved from foster care into permanent families, it was all joy.
“This is my favorite day of the year,” said Whatcom County commissioner Martha Gross, who presided over the ceremony.
And when it was Samantha’s turn to be officially added to the Lunde family, it wasn’t any different. The reserved 8-year-old joined her family at the table and broke into a smile as they were sworn in and declared their love with both their voices and their official signatures.
“It all went so fast,” said her now-official father Aaron Lunde. “The whole emotion of it didn’t hit me until the next day.”
The Lundes welcomed Samantha into their home a year ago as a foster child, but even before then, she was no stranger (her half-sister is Aaron Lunde’s daughter) – which is why child protective services (CPS) came to them when it became evident that she needed a new home.
“It was a no-brainer for us to take her in,” Aaron Lunde said. “Everything just kind of fell into place and we hung on for the ride.”
“There really wasn’t anyone else,” said Erin Lunde. “And it was either go to the foster care system and be with strangers, or be with us. We were the closest to family she had and I wanted her with us. She and Emma will always be connected since they are sisters, so it made sense.”
According to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, in the U.S. there are currently 400,540 children living in the foster care system. Of those, 115,000 are eligible for adoption, but nearly 40 percent of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted.
To keep that from happening to Samantha, Aaron and Erin went through parenting classes and got licensed as foster parents in order to open their home to their new daughter-to-be.
“It seems like a lot of hoops, but they are necessary,” Aaron Lunde said. “And I’d recommend the parenting classes to anyone, even if you’re not fostering or adopting. We’re light years from where we were as a family [since taking the classes]. You learn a lot.”
Months later, when Samantha officially became eligible for adoption, the process was set into motion. “Once we got to the actual adoption process, it went fast,” Aaron Lunde said.
They decided to file the paperwork on National Adoption Day to celebrate. “We didn’t know about it until our adoption lawyer told us it was an option,” Erin Lunde said. “But we decided it would be fun.”
The hardest decision for Samantha in the whole process was whether or not she would change her name. “I’m really excited to be a part of a family,” she said. “I decided to change my name, because it’s my sister’s last name and I wanted to have a name like that, and be part of a family.”
And with a swipe of a pen and a teddy bear she christened Chubby to commemorate the day, Samantha officially became a Lunde.
“We’re just keeping family together,” Aaron Lunde said.
For more information about National Adoption Day, visit nationaladoptionday.org.